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Yemen: Every two hours one woman dies in childbirth

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Photo by Daria Obymaha from Pexels

 As Yemen enters the seven-year of its war, mothers and women continue to pay the highest price. With more than 20 million people in need of crucial humanitarian assistance, Yemen is suffering greatly. What once was a joyful, celebrated aspect of life’s circle is slowly turning into an absolute death sentence for many vulnerable Yemenise women. Thus, according to the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), in Yemen, one woman dies in childbirth every two hours. 

A depleted health system

Even under normal circumstances, the journey to motherhood is very hard and tiring. Thus, under the tragic circumstances of this man-made tragedy, vulnerable women barely stand a chance of survival. Not only is the Yemenis health system barely functional, but it is also severely underequipped and lacking. Also, due to the ongoing armed conflict, only fifty percent of all health facilities in Yemen are running. 

Moreover, the current coronavirus pandemic only added more wood to the fire. The health system had to dedicate 15 percent of the functional health facilities to treat the infected. Therefore, only 20 percent of these facilities are providing maternal and child health services. 

Furthermore, in 2020, 40% of the UNFPA-supported health facilities had to shut down due to inadequate funding. The closure denied almost 1 million women access to critical care and safe childbirth services. Many of the death cases taking place every two hours are preventable in case of health care accessibility, according to UN reports. Additionally, for every woman dying in childbirth, almost 20 other women suffer near-fatal injuries, infections, or life-long disabilities. 

“The situation is catastrophic,” said UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Natalia Kanem, during her recent three-day visit to the country

Severe malnutrition and food insecurity

Food insecurity and malnutrition are harming almost the entire Yemenis population, but pregnant and breastfeeding women are suffering the most. Right now, almost more than 1.2 women are suffering acute malnourishment.

“I’ve been in many maternity wards, and they are usually a place of joy. But in Yemen, I witnessed the devastation of malnutrition and hunger, with newborn babies on feeding tubes and mothers weakened by fear and exhaustion,” Dr. Kanem noted. “It is heartbreaking to see fellow members of the human family in such dire conditions.”

Furthermore, with the country standing on famine’s door and no humanitarian funding, the numbers are about to double. Currently, 50,000 people are suffering famine-like conditions, and experts are expecting the numbers to increase by more than 200% within the next year. 

“What is happening to the people of Yemen is unimaginably cruel. Aid groups are catastrophically underfunded and overstretched. The parties to this senseless war specialize in producing suffering and the weapon of choice is hunger,” said Jan Egeland, the Secretary-General of the Norwegian Refugee Council.

Increase in gender-based violence

During the country’s years of ongoing conflict, women’s and girls’ vulnerability to violence has escalated tremendously. As poverty and insecurity increase, so does child marriage. A UNFPA study revealed that 1 in 5 displaced girls, aged 10 to 19, were married in Yemen. Thus, impoverished and poor families are using child marriages as a method of coping with the current situation. 

“When I told my father, I do not want to get married, my father and grandmother beat me with a water pipe. They said by getting married I will have a better life”, said Alea, a girl who was forced to marry at age 13. “My life only got worse. My husband started to sell all my jewelry and when I inquired about them, he would beat me. I then ran to my father’s house, but he also beat me and chased me back to my husband. I was left with nowhere to go.”

Furthermore, in 2020, almost 350,000 Yemenis women got deprived of greatly-needed gender-based violence services after the closure of 12 UNFPA-supported safe spaces. According to UN reports, almost 6.1 million Yemenis women and girls require these kinds of services, but barely a few of them are receiving any.

“We not only need funding to sustain services but we urgently need to scale up to save the lives of women and girls,” said Nestor Owomuhangi, UNFPA’s Representative in Yemen.

References:
“The families I’m meeting in Yemen are staring starvation in the eyes”. (2021). NRC. https://www.nrc.no/news/2021/march/the-families-im-meeting-in-yemen-are-staring-starvation-in-the-eyes/In Yemen’s man-made catastrophe, women and girls pay the heaviest price. (2021). UNFPA – United Nations Population Fund. https://www.unfpa.org/news/yemens-man-made-catastrophe-women-and-girls-pay-heaviest-priceMotherhood on the brink in Yemen. (2021, March 29). UN News. https://news.un.org/en/story/2021/03/1088352Urgent funding needed to provide protection and health services to millions of women in Yemen. (n.d.). UNFPA – United Nations Population Fund. Retrieved April 2, 2021, from https://www.unfpa.org/press/urgent-funding-needed-provide-protection-and-health-services-millions-women-yemen#:%7E:text=Reality%20for%20Women%20of%20Childbearing,not%20able%20to%20use%20it.Yemen: Famine around the corner, says World Food Programme – Yemen. (2021, March 1). ReliefWeb. https://reliefweb.int/report/yemen/yemen-famine-around-corner-says-world-food-programme

Children

Children’s Rights in Yemen Are Teetering on the Edge of A Catastrophe

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Yemen's Children's Rights Crisis is Teetering on the Edge of An Outright Catastrophe

What is Happening in Yemen?

As the world focuses on the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Yemen’s children’s rights crisis is teetering on the edge of an outright catastrophe.

The war in Yemen is entering its eighth year since the conflict escalated in March 2015. Yemen’s civil war started when Houthi insurgents took control of Yemen’s capital, Sana’a, demanding lower fuel prices and a new government.

In January 2022, one civilian died every hour in Yemen, setting a record for the deadliest month of conflict since 2018. In addition, UNICEF estimated that 70% of the population requires humanitarian assistance. Moreover, there are 4 million people internally displaced, of which 2 million are children. Yemen is very youthful, with 40% of its population under fourteen. As the war intensifies, millions of children are denied their fundamental human rights.

How is this War Affecting Children’s Rights?

In recent weeks humanitarian organizations have faced unprecedented funding shortages, which has hindered their ability to deliver aid and life-saving services to local civilians. The Yemeni people have minimal access to fundamental rights such as food, clean water, shelter and health care services.

1. Hunger & Health Crises Reach a Critical State

According to a recent IPC report, there is an appalling hunger crisis in Yemen which has recently reached its most critical state. There are 2.2 million children acutely malnourished and half a million children facing severe acute malnutrition. According to UN officials, 19 million Yemenis are on the brink of hunger unless sufficient funding is raised. There are more than eight million children on the verge of famine, and up to 13 million children urgently in need of immediate healthcare.

Furthermore, recent data indicate that the number of people experiencing catastrophic hunger levels is expected to increase from 31,000 to a shocking 161,000 during the second half of 2022.

“These harrowing figures confirm that we are on a countdown to catastrophe in Yemen and we are almost out of time to avoid it. Unless we receive substantial new funding immediately, mass starvation and famine will follow. But if we act now, there is still a chance to avert imminent disaster and save millions.”

World Food Programme (WFP) Executive Director David Beasley.

2. Families Recieve Half the WFP Daily Minimum Food Supply

In 2022, many households only received half of the WFP standard daily minimum food supply. Consequently, the war has caused food prices to rise to unaffordable levels for civilians. The Ukrainian war is causing import shocks resulting in food prices further increasing. An estimated 30% of Yemen’s wheat supply comes from Ukraine, meaning they depend highly on their market.

The COVID-19 pandemic also increased pressure on the fragile health care system. As a result, the pandemic exacerbated the underlying protection and gender-related vulnerabilities of women and children. Recently, Save the Children noted that thousands of children in Yemen are on the verge of losing access to life-saving healthcare. The country faces the largest fuel crisis since the start of the conflict in 2014, exacerbating this crisis.

3. Children Killed and Recruited to Armed Conflict

As the violence in Yemen intensifies, children are the first and most to suffer. Consequently, in the first two months of 2022, 47 children were killed or injured in Yemen. UN officials’ held that conflict escalated between government forces and the Houthi rebels. Since the start of the war, UNICEF reported 10,200 children killed or injured.

Also Read: Yemen: an entire generation at the brink of falling prey to acute malnutrition.

The UN Security Council reported that in “one camp, children as young as seven years of age were taught to clean weapons and evade rockets”.

Source: AJ+ shared images on their Twitter page reflecting the children’s rights crisis in Yemen.

Human rights front line watchers have repeatedly reported recruiting children into armed conflict by the Houthi rebels. Since 2014, 10,300 children were recruited to rebel ranks. In 2020, the UN’s Yemen Panel of Experts noted 1,406 children recruited had died. The UN experts report stated that 562 children died fighting between January and May 2021.

4. Children’s Rights Compromised Due To Very Limited Access to Education

The United Nations has warned that the war in Yemen has left an estimated 8.1 million children in need of educational support. The children in Yemen must have access to safe learning spaces. Education has the potential to save lives and sow the seeds for a more peaceful future within the country. Furthermore, uneducated children trap themselves in a self-perpetuating cycle of poverty.

Limited access to education has profound cognitive and emotional developmental disruptions for Yemen’s 10 million school-age children. The educational infrastructure in the country is severely damaged, with reports of over 2,500 schools destroyed by war. There are currently more than 2 million children out of school. For approximately four years, two-thirds of the school teachers in Yemen are not receiving a regular salary.

The Need for Collective and Meaningful Action in Yemen for Children’s Rights

Yemen is a regional proxy war which has killed more than 150,000 people. Children are vulnerable to hunger, disease, exploitation, child labour, domestic and gender-based violence, child marriage and psychosocial distress. UNICEF recently reported that this war resulted in the most significant global humanitarian crisis.

Angelina Jolie, who works closely as an ambassador to the UNHCR, visited Yemen in March 2022. Jolie drew parallels between refugees in Yemen and those suffering from the war in Ukraine. She stated, “as we continue to watch the horrors unfolding in Ukraine and call for an immediate end to the conflict and humanitarian access, I’m here in Yemen to support people who also desperately need peace”.

The UNHCR Calls For Safe Passage of Civilians

The UNHCR calls for all parties to the conflict to respect international humanitarian law and the safe passage for civilians fleeing conflicted areas. Furthermore, humanitarian organizations and workers must have full access to the country to deliver aid. The UNHCR calls for a peace agreement to help find a solution to ending the war. An important lesson from the Ukrainian war is that we cannot be selective about whose rights we choose to defend. The lives of refugees fleeing persecution everywhere are of equal importance.

Everyone deserves the same kindness and support. We must help all those suffering through the horrors of war.

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What is driving the hatred against Asian-Americans in the US?

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A Chinese man was walking back home after a long exhausting day through the side streets of Chinatown, Manhattan. A strange person abruptly overshadows him from the back, and suddenly an 8-inch knife was plunged into the 36-year old’s back.

This is not a description of any mystery crime movie, but a real incident that took place on 25th February this year. And what’s more staggering is that despite being a heart-wrenching incident, the stabbing was not unusual for the locals.

The mass shooting and murdering of four Asian-Americans in Atlanta have been in the headline for the last few days arising the question; what is driving the hatred against the Asian-American community in America? Why is the US failing in bridging socio-cultural gaps between the Asian and American communities? And what can be done to stop the escalating Xenophobia?

What is driving the Asian-Americans hatred in the US?

The US and China are global rivals and stand against each other on various grounds. Tensions over human rights, a dispute over trade and territory of the South China Sea have been escalating between the two superpowers. This unfavourable opinion is as common in the Democrats as in Republicans.

But in recent times, these negative sentiments are rooting in the citizens, and have spiked unimaginable consequences. There have been mass killings of targeted communities before in America; but most of them took place at a time when attacks and mass shooting was already on rising in general.

The cases of violence against the Asian community have been exponential plunging especially since the beginning of the pandemic. The origin of COVID coupled with misinformation about the virus on various social media platforms is believed to the driving factor behind the surge of Xenophobia.

Furthermore, the former US president, Donal Trump, almost every time referred to the coronavirus as ‘a Chinese virus’; thus further deepening the country’s long history of justifying anti-Asian Xenophobia, which can be dated back to the 19th and 20th centuries. This to some extent helped in painting the picture of Asian-Americans as ‘Perpetual Foreigners’ to America.

Escalating attack on Asian-Americans

A 64-year-old Vietnamese woman was first assaulted and then robbed in San Jose, Calif. Physical abuse of a 61-year old Filipino man on a subway of New York City; 84-year old Vicha Ratanapakdee, violently thrown to the ground while taking his morning walk; the incident cause death of the elderly. This list is ever-increasing and endless.

According to NYPD’s report on hate-driven crime against Asians have raised by more than 1900% just in 2020. For sake of controlling the increasing targeted violence, a reporting database (Stop AAPI Hate) was created at the dawn of the pandemic. In just less than 10-months, more than 2,800 anti-Asian hatred triggered violence cases were reported.

In the pandemic year, Asian-Americans were already suffering because of the increased racism attacks; when eight victims, mostly of Asian descent, were shot dead by a white gunman in Atlanta.

How did the Asian-American community respond?

Rights activists have been trying to bring the escalating violence against the Asian community to the public eye for a long, but the Atlanta shooting incidents have flamed the sparking rage and now the entire US is protesting against intensifying Xenophobia.

With sadness, fear, and hopelessness choking their throat; the anger burst out on social media. #StopAsianHate stayed the top trending hashtag on Twitter for hours.

Vicente Reid, CEO of the Arizona Asian Chamber of Commerce is planning for a vigil in Mesa’s Phoenix suburb, an area with a high concentration of Asian-American population; in the wake of the petrified local community post the slaying.

Mr Vincent Reid says; “I think there is this whole outlet of this younger generation who’s passionate and has the energy. They just need someone to step up and lead them.”

What can the US government do to control the situation?

Experts believe that Trumps’ rhetoric has encouraged some Americans to publicly express their anti-Asian and anti-immigrant sentiments.

It is very highly unlikely that the Biden administration will try to tamp down the tension between America and China; just for obstructing the fuelling Xenophobia. But instead, the government should try to explicitly tells the Americans not to amalgamate the country’s cold war with China with the Asian-Americans community.

Nikki Fortunato Bas, president of Oakland City Council have called out for solidarity amongst the coloured community or increase policing as a solution to the increasing targeted violence.

Strict action against the attackers can help mellow down the situation. But, experts believe that a long-term strategy will be needed to reduce the anti-Asian sentiments. Asian-Americans are no more a minority community in the US, the government need to highlight their presence in a positive light and identify them as an explicit part of the country.

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Yemen: an entire generation at the brink of falling prey to acute malnutrition

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Yemen, the country which was already fighting wars with multiple adversaries is now at the verge of yet another unprecedented plight; a peril risk of an entire generation falling prey to acute malnutrition. The five long years of civil war have devastated the middle-eastern country. Yemen, battling with civil war, economic collapse and global health emergency is undergoing the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

Yemen: The worst every recorded malnutrition rate

The latest data from the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) revealed the widening problem of malnutrition in the country. In the worst-hit area, one out of every four children is racked with the pain of acute malnutrition.

The analysis was done in 133 districts of southern Yemen; in which resides more than 1.4 million children who are under 5-years old. The analysis was conducted by food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO); the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF); the World Food Programme (WFP) and partners. With 567,573 children at present, the numbers of suffering children have hiked by 10% from this January.

Marixie Mercado, spokesperson of UNICEF said; “Acute malnutrition rates among children below five-years-old are the highest ever recorded in parts of southern Yemen”.

The problem with malnutrition is severe because children below five-years-old suffering from acute malnutrition; posses ten times more chances of dying from diseases like malaria, cholera, diarrhoea etc. This has made Yemen a “living hell” for children, causing them death from easily preventable disease.

About a decade of armed conflict has caused the country’s economy to collapse; crumbling healthcare system leaving thousands of people to starve to death.

How the global pandemic is affecting Yemen crisis?

A number of national and international organisations and institution around the world including the UN; provides Humanitarian aid in the country form providing food essential, water to emergency medical supplies in the war-torn areas of the country.

Almost all of these organisations run on funding but; the unprecedented COVID19 pandemic has impacted the global economy with almost every big economy having negative GDP; in the worst quarter of 2020. The long halt in economic activities has vastly affected the funding this year.

Civil war and ever-escalating tensions have caused millions of Yemenis to displace within and outside the country. The bulk of these is never able to find a job, again pushing them towards famine.

Amongst millions, one of these acutely malnourished children is Issa Nasser. His father Ibrahim Nasser was a fisherman who was forced to leave his village because of the escalated conflict between Yemen’s Houthi rebels and government; the conflict which cost more than 100,00 lives and forced 3 million people to get displaced and created the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

A huge portion, two-third of the population depends upon food assistance for survival; which is becoming more and more scarce because of the lack of funding.

Issa Nasser’s father says “I am a poor person, and my son is in this state and they tell me he is malnourished; I don’t have anything to give him”

The current condition

The current data shows that with 15.5%, Yemen has witnessed the greatest rise in Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM); leaving 98,000 children under five at the brink of death caused by lack of urgent treatment and SMA.

The worst-hit parts are Abyan Lowland with 23%, Lahj Lowland with 21%, Taiz Lowland with 22% and consequently Hodeida’s lowland with 27% acutely malnourished children.

Tomson Phiri, spokesperson of World Food Programme said, “Those predictions, from what we are gathering on the ground, are likely to be an underestimate. It is highly likely that the situation is worse than initially projected as conditions continue to worsen beyond the forecast levels. Why is this so? The underlying assumptions of the projections have either been or are close to being surpassed”.

Above all the upraising food insecurity, insufficient and poor diet, the widespread presence of communicable disease, limited and distorted medical facilities, poor sanitation, the inevitability of vaccine etc have made Yemen one of the most difficult place for the survival of children and mother.

An entire generation of Yemen at risk

From time to time humanitarian aid has helped to keep the number of children suffering from crisis, to somewhat is control, but this year even that seems falling off the cliff.

World Food Programme has been warning about the catastrophic food insecurity crisis since July. ” “If the war doesn’t end now, we are nearing an irreversible situation and risk losing an entire generation of Yemen’s young children. The data we are releasing today confirms that acute malnutrition among children is hitting the highest levels we have seen since the war started” says Ms Lise Grande a Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen.

United Nation and partners have asked the world for the urgent help of more than $50 million to the safe life of these children. By the mid-October the funding was only $1.43 of required $3.2 was received.

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